Tackling the HR challenge: how the Royal Navy is utilising tech to strengthen retention
The war in Ukraine is changing the UK defence agenda, focusing minds on potentially staffing up rather than further military cuts with one of the biggest challenges for the forces being talent retention. David Chandler, division director at Bristol-based Great State, details how its technology is being adopted by the UK Royal Navy in a bid to retain key skills and personnel.
No matter what developments occur in military technology, there will always be a need for boots on the ground. With spend rising on new military tech, it only makes sense that investment will also flow into the UK Royal Navy’s most valuable resource - its people.
With advertising spend per armed forces recruit reported to be on average ten times higher than the spend of the NHS England per new nurse, and seven times higher than the Department of Education spend per new teacher, talent retention within the forces needs to be improved to avoid recruitment costs spiralling.
Across every sector it's becoming increasingly difficult to recruit, and the Royal Navy has not escaped this new economic reality. A cocktail of economic uncertainty, lower levels of immigration, higher levels of long-term sickness and an exodus of over fifties from work since the start of the pandemic has meant that every industry is battling to attract and retain talent.
To tackle its own human resource challenges, the Royal Navy has embraced an internal digital transformation programme. A key element of this is employee engagement tool MyNavy designed to enhance the working lives of serving personnel, reservists, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and civil servants.
Digital engagement with navy personnel
Developed collaboratively with digital program partner Great State, MyNavy is an employee engagement tool that enables Royal Navy personnel, from new recruits to experienced veterans, to feel more connected to their employer and empowered in their career development.
Data insights allows the navy to stay ahead of emerging challenges such as how many personnel are available for deployments or to identify any emerging skills shortages or surpluses. By understanding people’s interests and ambitions, it can also help the navy become more engaged with the people under its command through proactively suggesting opportunities for progression, training and deployments.
MyNavy is built upon three core pillars: utility, personalisation and empowerment. Every feature and interaction within the app have a specific purpose and is designed to make a difference to the user’s life. Personalisation is essential to create unique experiences, with individuals finding relevant information and help for their specific circumstances. And finally, MyNavy is fundamentally an empowerment tool putting the power in the hands of the serving personnel and civil servants, crafted to ensure they have the freedom to explore all their available options.
According to GlobalData, 23% of MoD funds currently allocated for platform acquisitions for the period 2022-2032 have been awarded to US suppliers.
// Royal Navy personnel can use the MyNavy app to request items such as uniforms, providing greater efficiency and speed compared to the earlier analogue process.
Actively improving the working lives of personnel
Research by Great State of hundreds of serving personnel found that many felt undervalued, unsupported, and uncertain about their future in the Navy - frustrated with the manual analogue ways of working. To tackle these pain points, Great State designed MyNavy with features to improve the lived experience of each sailor and civil servant.
One such feature included the complete overhaul of the uniform distribution system - turning what was once a slow and tiresome process into a quick and easy click and collect service. From previously having to visit on-base clothing stores, MyNavy allows personnel to check stock online and request specific items of clothing, bringing immediate benefits to every sailor and civil servant across the Royal Navy, including new recruits.
The Royal Navy recognises the importance of empowering personnel to take ownership of their continuous development as leaders. The MyNavy app helps to build a sense of belonging and ambition, helping them to feel more supported and in control of their naval careers.
Through the Leadership Centre of Excellence within the MyNavy app, personnel and civil servants now have access to a deep archive of podcasts, videos and reading materials to allow them to proactively seek out new information to help in their professional development as leaders. All information is categorised and searchable, with handy stats on the time required to read, watch, and listen, so that staff can ensure they can fit their studies around their daily lives.
In order to stay ahead of emerging challenges, the ‘Have Your Say’ feature allows personnel to directly raise issues and suggest enhancements to the existing services, alongside recommending new features based on their own experiences. This enables MyNavy to remain entirely user centric, constantly adapting to the desires of the sailor and civil servant and stamping out any potential retention issues before they develop.
Securing the next generation
Through a bottom-up approach to actively eliminating points of frustration and giving personnel and civil servants control over their working lives, the MyNavy app has been able to modernise the relationship between the Royal Navy and its service personnel, reducing the friction that could have once caused issues.
The app has found tremendous success from a workforce hungry to modernise – it is now available to over 30,000 personnel across 27 different countries, generating more than 168,000 monthly visits. And this success has not gone unnoticed, MyRAF has since been commissioned and developed - now working to improve the lives of those across the Royal Air Force.
Due to the adaptive nature of the app, the Royal Navy can continue to listen to user feedback and adapt to emerging challenges, something that younger generations are now accustomed to. Bringing the service up to speed with modern expectations will be important in engaging, immersing and most importantly, retaining, the next generation of personnel.
// Main image: The Royal Navy has embraced the use of digital technology to aid in personnel retention. All image credit: Great State